Ian Thomas Malone

A Connecticut Yogi in King Joffrey's Court

taylor swift Archive

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24

January 2020

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Sundance Review: Miss Americana

Written by , Posted in Blog, Movie Reviews, Pop Culture

The big challenge for films like Miss Americana is to present its stars in a way that doesn’t feel like one big infomercial. Taylor Swift is one of the most famous people in the world. She doesn’t need to give access to anyone. Director Lana Wilson covers a wide range of Taylor’s life while building a narrative that strikes at the nature of her relentless drive.

From a timeline perspective, Miss Americana includes practically the entirety of Swift’s life, aided by footage numerous home videos. The film spends the bulk of its time on the past few years, namely the production of Reputation and Lover. Swift allows cameras in the studio for the first time in her career, capturing intimate moments where her music comes alive.

Swift has kept up an impressive workload for an artist who has little left to prove. Unsurprisingly in that regard, she often conducts herself as a person still trying to climb the mountain well after she’s reached the top. Success at an early age appears to have instilled a deep longing for the public’s approval, often to her own detriment.

Wilson wields Swift’s own words to tell a story that hints at the artist’s shortcomings without ever feeling like it’s being outwardly critical. Miss Americana breaks new ground while thoroughly remaining on Taylor’s side. It’s a singular kind of music documentary, one with the artist’s full participation that manages to be thought-provoking, even if it’s clear that punches are being pulled. Wilson doesn’t need to be Mike Wallace to dive deeper into her subject.

Sometimes she earns an eye roll for complaining about things that can be safely filed into first world problems, but that also reflects a person who has barely had any privacy for over a decade. Strangers break into her house to sleep in her bed. That’s not normal by any definition of the word.

Miss Americana works best when it focuses on Taylor’s rise in the resistance after a decade of silence on the political front. For a performer with roots in the country music world, the Dixie Chicks serve as a cautionary tale for what happens when you bash a Republican president. Taylor’s embrace of feminism and LGBTQ rights created an untenable situation for staying on the sidelines.

To her credit, she admits mistakes on this front. She has one of the most powerful microphones in the world. Though her management, including her father, protests, she wades into the 2018 senatorial race in Tenessee, knowing full well that attacks from the Tweeter-in-chief are bound to follow. Plenty of people and big corporations talk a big game on inclusion, but Swift feels genuine in her desire to grow as an ally. The sexual assault case that she recently won had a profound impact on her approach to activism. That kind of sincerity is sadly too often missing from this political climate.

The film does leave a couple strands of her career undeveloped. Early on, the film walks up to the idea that Reputation had made some mistakes, but never really follows through on this idea. The Taylor Swift that once sang about how “the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now” is nowhere to be found. That Taylor appears to not only be dead, but forgotten also.

For a film with a ninety-minute runtime, it’s understandable how stuff like her feud with Katy Perry wouldn’t make the cut. Taylor Swift has had a very long and storied career, all before the age of thirty. Also absent is Scooter Braun, though the ongoing nature of that dispute makes it difficult to include in a narrative like Miss Americana.

It is somewhat disappointing to not see the thought process behind songs like “Bad Blood” or “Look What You Made Me Do” explained, or even examined. Miss Americana frequently highlights the fact that Swift writes all her own songs, making it all the more jarring that Reputation’s lead track borrowed the melody from Right Side Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy,” a truly horrendous one-hit wonder.

Miss Americana succeeds at its primary objective, to take a global superstar and present her in a relatable fashion. She’s one of the most successful musicians in history, but also a human being. Society may not want those two versions of Taylor to co-exist, but people need growth to sustain themselves. Taylor Swift may have it all, but the film proves just how hungry she is for more.

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Friday

27

February 2015

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Kanye West Should Not Be Blamed For Stealing Beck’s Spotlight

Written by , Posted in Blog, Pop Culture, Social Issues

Kanye West apologized to Beck on Twitter last night. Why? Most likely because the story was dying. Maybe he was sincere. I doubt it, but that’s hardly the point.

The point is, he shouldn’t be blamed. Yes, you’re reading that right.

He shouldn’t be blamed, not because he’s a sociopath or suffers from too extreme a case of crippling narcissism to tell right or wrong, but because he did what was expected of him by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. He wasn’t up for any awards since he didn’t have a new album out. He has a length track record of behaving poorly at awards shows.

So why was he there? More importantly, why was he in a position to steal the spotlight away from the most important award of the night? Shouldn’t he have been kept away to ensure the integrity of the night stayed intact?

He was there because no one cares about the Grammys. People do care about Kanye West. Insert him into the equation and then suddenly, people care about the Grammys. Simple, right?

Many people were horrified by his actions, as they were when he cut into Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech back in 2009 at the MTV Video Awards. He also did it back in 2006 at the MTV Europe Music Awards. He loves to behave poorly at these things and people love to watch it.

That’s why the blame shouldn’t fall on Kanye for this latest media circus. Blame the Grammys for orchestrating this publicity stunt. They took no measures to prevent the inevitable.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me a hundred more time, who’s really to blame?

Not Kanye West.

The man is doing his job. He generates buzz. His wife is better at that than most people who have ever walked this earth. Good for them.

If you’re truly angry by this, I suggest a new course of action. Stop caring. The Grammys are stupid. They represent a fraction of the recording industry, a point accurately reflected in the award show’s dismal ratings. If people cared, they wouldn’t need Kanye.

The Grammys got free buzz weeks after the show all whilst allowing Kanye to take the fall. This isn’t right. They let him prance on stage to do his bit knowing exactly what would happen and they’re the ones who should be blamed. Kanye West is a brilliant marketer whose actions demonstrated his complete dominance over mainstream media. Beck was the unfortunate casualty, but I doubt his fans really care. I know I don’t.

 

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Friday

12

December 2014

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Top 40 Radio Stations Do Not Belong in the Yoga Studio

Written by , Posted in Blog, Social Issues

Like the countless styles of yoga, there are many choices for music to accompany one’s practice. Being largely a matter of personal preference, it’s hard to really reject certain genres entirely. I know teachers who frequently play rap music and heavy metal and it works. That might not be for everyone, but an instructor that makes that choice typically understands that it must work toward the larger image that they wish to project for their class. If you want to play Judas Priest or Wu Tang, you need to own that decision.

I recently took a class where the instructor put the radio on to a top 40 station to accompany her class. Being somewhat of a countercultural figure, naturally I wasn’t too amused by this decision, which was initially exacerbated by the instructor’s tardiness. This played into the bigger problem that was radiating from said instructor.

Carelessness.

Music is a big part of a yoga class. It sets the tone and is the constant presence that lingers over each student when the teacher isn’t speaking (which should happen at times). It isn’t more important than say, the actual yoga, but it’s easily something that can derail an entire class.

Adam Levine makes headlines for his love of yoga. That’s great. Doesn’t mean that Maroon 5’s “Animals” with lyrics like “You’re a drug that’s killing me I cut you out entirely. But I get so high when I’m inside of you” belongs in a yoga studio.

Which doesn’t mean that Maroon 5 needs to be banned entirely. Just that songs that reference obsessive tendencies, drugs, and coitus should be screened and promptly removed from any playlist destined to be played in yoga. That’s the downside of playing a radio station. You don’t get to pick what comes on and with something like top 40, you can be sure that much of it is inappropriate for your class.

I put a great deal of effort into my playlists, which are generally a mix of 60s rock, 80s New Wave, and Indie music. It’s not effort that every instructor needs to have, but it makes a difference. Over the years, I’ve got as many compliments for my music as the yoga itself (make of that what you will). As a big fan of The Smiths, I know that they only have a couple of songs that can be played in a yoga setting. So “Stretch Out and Wait” gets played while “Some Girls are Bigger than Others” does not.

That’s not to say I haven’t made playlist mistakes. Once I played “Yesterday” by The Beatles, which came on during seated poses which didn’t help matters. Needless to say, I made the room laugh by apologizing for playing a sad song during hip openers.

Each yoga class should in some way, shape, or form reflect the personality of the instructor. What does Top 40 radio reflect? The United States of Generica? Something you can hear anywhere? I think so.

You might at this point think that I’m being too harsh on Top 40, especially the songs that might be acceptable. What if the instructor loves Taylor Swift? That’s fine. The presence of TSwift should be because the instructor wanted her there. Not because she happened to be on the radio (which oddly enough didn’t happen in this class despite the low odds).

Yoga classes take effort. They should also look like they take effort. People are giving you their money and their time for a service. Throwing on the radio shows that you couldn’t be bothered to be in control of your class. Which in turn might inspire a student to stay home with a yoga DVD and Ms. Swift.

When you don’t put any effort into parts of your class, it shows. Who wants to hold a balancing pose while the insufferable Calvin Harris is blasting in the background? Not I!

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